New York Times columnist David Brooks talks with Diane about what he sees happening inside Washington and around the country and why he thinks President Trump represents the wrong answer to the right question.
The results from Super Tuesday are in. Mitt Romney won six of the 10 states up for grabs, including Ohio. The wins reaffirm his front runner status in the G.O.P.’s presidential race. But they failed to deliver the knock out blow he’d been hoping for. In addition to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also scored victories last night. In their concession speeches, each of his rivals signaled that they would not be bowing out of the race any time soon. So the race looks set to continue for sometime. But Republicans are increasingly concerned over the impact the drawn out race is having on the party’s chances in November.
- Chris Cillizza author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog, and managing editor of PostPolitics.com.
- Ed Gillespie former chairman of the Republican National Committee; chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.
- Susan Page Washington bureau chief for USA Today.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Thanks to his wins last night on Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney has been able to build up a convincing lead in the delegate count. But his narrow victory in Ohio leaves a Republican nomination race without the clarity many had hoped for. We look at the results and what they mean going forward with Susan Page of USA Today and Chris Cillizza, author of The Fix, that's a Washington Post politics blog. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter, and good morning to both of you.
MS. SUSAN PAGEGood morning, Diane.
MR. CHRIS CILLIZZAGood morning, Diane.
REHMSusan Page, break down the results for us. Who won what?
PAGEWell, we saw Gov. Romney have a pretty good night, won six out of the 10 states. He won, of course, Massachusetts, his home state, Virginia, where only Ron Paul was also on the ballot, and Vermont. He won Ohio in an incredible squeaker that didn't get called until about 12:30.
PAGEOne percent of the vote. He won Idaho and he also won Alaska. That was a little bit of a surprise. We thought Alaska might be a state that Ron Paul could pick up his first win of the season. So I think a reasonably good night for Mitt Romney, but not entirely so because it was also a pretty good night for Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich won the state he needed to win. And that means, I think, that this race goes on for a while longer.
REHMChris Cillizza, what about delegates?
CILLIZZAWell, to Susan's point, this looks like a better night for Mitt Romney in the light of Wednesday than in it did in the dark of Tuesday night. He was behind in Ohio for much of the night. He did wind up winning there. Two stories that don't -- there are states that don't get as much coverage, Diane, but should when you talk about delegates. One is Virginia because Romney got 59 percent of the vote, this was a winner-take-all state, if you got over 50 percent.
CILLIZZAOnly Mitt Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot. Remember that Newt Gingrich-Rick Perry wound up not mattering, but Rick Perry-Rick Santorum didn't qualify for the Virginia ballot. As a result, Mitt Romney wound up winning 43 out of the 46 delegates. Ron Paul carried the 3rd Congressional District and won three delegates in Virginia. But the lion's share, Idaho, 30-plus delegates, it's a winner-take-all state, Mitt Romney won the delegates there too.
CILLIZZASo the Romney campaign is already out with a memo this morning in which Rich Beeson, their political director, makes the argument that after Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney is even more likely to be the nominee than he was before Super Tuesday because the delegate math is, frankly if you look at it, very difficult. You're talking about Rick Santorum probably have to -- having to win 60 percent-plus of the remaining delegates to get to that 1,100 number he need to clinch it.
CILLIZZAThe thing is this is not a delegate race alone. There's perception. There's symbolism. And Mitt Romney continues, and as Susan mentioned, he continues to have problems within a not insignificant part of the Republican base: very conservative voters, evangelical voters, voters who identify with the Tea Party. This is what we would describe as the base of the Republican base. They are not in love with Mitt Romney. I don't even think they are in like with Mitt Romney at this point, and that's a problem.
PAGEYou know, the Romney people are making the argument that no other candidate can get to 1,144, the number of delegates you need to win a nomination, and I think they lay out a reasonably convincing case of that. What's harder is to make the argument that is inevitable that Romney will get to 1,144 because if all the four candidates stay in and they continue to do well in some states, we've got Mississippi and Alabama up next week, those are states that'll be tough for Mitt Romney -- it's possible that no one gets to 1,144, and that's a big challenge for the Romney campaign.
REHMIs it possible any of the candidates might drop out, Susan?
PAGEWell we are hearing calls by people associated with Rick Santorum saying that it's time for Newt Gingrich to get out so that the anti-Romney vote gets consolidated. But after listening to Newt Gingrich in his victory party in Atlanta last night, he did not sound like a man who is about to get out. And in fact, he's got travel plans to Mississippi and Alabama and in Kansas, where they're holding caucuses, and has already begun advertising in those states.
CILLIZZAAnd just to add to Susan's point, Gingrich is quoted this morning essentially saying he would get out of the race if he thought that Rick Santorum could beat Mitt Romney and then go on to beat Barack Obama, and he does not feel that way. Look, I think Mitt -- excuse me, Newt Gingrich has a case to make that he is now the Southern candidate. He did not win Tennessee, but he did win Georgia. He has won South Carolina. I think he will run competitively in Mississippi and Alabama last week. Louisiana is on March 24.
CILLIZZAHe could accrue a block of delegates that would then give him some power, not to be the nominee -- I see no path -- you can argue a path potentially for Rick Santorum. You can clearly argue a path for Mitt Romney. It's hard to argue a path for Newt Gingrich to be the nominee. But if he had a block of primarily Southern delegates, now he has something of a negotiating position to try to get -- whether it's a speaking slot at the convention, whether it's something like that, he then has some power, and I think that's probably the best end result for him at this point in the race.
REHMRick Santorum won Oklahoma.
PAGEWon Oklahoma, a conservative state, won it pretty easily. Won Tennessee, that was a state where we thought it was possible Mitt Romney would win. And if he had done that, I think we would say this was a totally good night for Mitt Romney if he had managed to win. But so far, Mitt Romney has not won in the Deep South. He won Florida, but that's a little bit different place. And this is the base of the Republican Party these days. So you need to show an ability to kind of coalesce Republican support in that part of the country.
REHMDid Mitt Romney spend his way to victory, Chris?
CILLIZZAWell, I think when you win by 12,000 votes out of, you know, a million to cast, there are a lot variables that go into -- but, yes, there is no question. If you combine he -- and we have to do this now in the world of superPACs that we live in. If you combine he and Restore Our Future, which is the Romney line superPAC, he drastically outspent Rick Santorum and the Red, White and Blue fund, which is the Rick Santorum superPAC. That has been the case in every single race we've had so far.
CILLIZZAEvery contest so far, I think there now have been 21, Mitt Romney is the big spender, when he chooses to. He didn't spend in Minnesota. He didn't spend in Missouri. He didn't in Colorado. Those were states on Feb. 7 because - they wrote those off mistakenly, by the way, because Rick Santorum didn't get some momentum from winning those states. But, yes, money alone, however, is not determinative. We know that from elections in the past. We know it from this election.
CILLIZZAMitt Romney is going to continue to be the best funded and best organized candidate. I think the best way to look at it at this point, Diane, is that he remains very likely to be the Republican nominee, but he is going to have to endure -- I don't wanna say humiliation, but he is going to have to endure a very tough road. The rest of this month, there is one state that I see is an obvious win for him, that's Illinois on March 28. Maybe Hawaii, which votes March 13. The rest of the states are gonna be very difficult for him for the rest of the month. So he's gonna have to just kind of muddle through it.
PAGEAnd, of course, this process is coming at some cost to Mitt Romney. He's been forced to take up positions. I think he'd prefer not to had to take on immigration and on abortion. He's had to focus on issues he doesn't wanna on. He really wants to focus on the economy. He's -- seeing his standing on it, independent voters decline as he tries to court very conservative voters. So the Romney people would very much like this contest to over, so his focus could turn to Barack Obama.
REHMThe question in regard to this week comes around to what Mitt Romney did or did not say in regard to Rush Limbaugh's comments. Chris Cillizza, should he been stronger?
CILLIZZAWell, you know, just by way of context, he was asked about it yesterday. He essentially said, I'm running my campaign on folks on the economy and jobs. Mitt Romney, you can say a lot of negative things about him.
CILLIZZAOne thing positive you can say about him in general is he's very on-message. Now, there is a real and, I think, reasonable question to be asked, whether a condemnation of the comments of Rush Limbaugh, not simply a, you know, I'm not talking about that, I'm focused on other things, would have gained him a measure of both positive press and admiration within the Republican Party. It's hard to know that, Diane.
CILLIZZAThere is clearly a segment of the Republican Party. I would give you Rush Limbaugh's ratings and Rush Limbaugh's financial -- how much he makes every year. That he has a significant base of support in the Republican Party for everything that he says. Now, I think the common cheats made about Sandra Fluke have as much, much, much more narrow base of support in the party than some the things he says.
CILLIZZABut what I don't know is whether Mitt Romney, you know, the sister soldier moment coming, speaking hard truth to the party that this is not the way we behave, it sounds good. I think the D.C. media class are in favor of it. It would win Romney kudos. I think with them, it would at least start to help him solve what looks now to be a real problem with women, particularly independent women. What I don't know, remember, though, is context matters.
CILLIZZAMitt Romney is in the midst of a fight for his life -- that I do think he will win -- but a fight for his life in a Republican primary where conservatives, Tea voters and Evangelicals still do not like or trust him. Would this further undermine that and could have cost him the nomination? My guess would be that's the calculus going on in their mind.
REHMBut, you know, when you hear the full element of what Rush Limbaugh had to say, one would have thought that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum would have spoken.
CILLIZZAI think you are right in that. And I would profess to my own somewhat ignorance before I read up on this at the urging of my wife. I think most of us are familiar that Rush Limbaugh called this Georgetown law student a slut and a prostitute. Just to be clear, those are his words, not my words. I think what people do not realize is that this was a multi-day, before the -- a lot of people were paying attention. This is a multi-day process in which Mr. Limbaugh went after Sandra Fluke.
CILLIZZAOne quote that stands out to me -- I'm quoting from a Boston Globe editorial real here written by Jeff Jacoby. This is a quote from Rush Limbaugh that Fluke was someone "having so much sex, it's amazing she can still walk." He demanded that she post "the videos of all the sex online so we can see what we're getting for our money." In that context, I wonder if Mitt Romney wouldn't -- and all the Republican candidates wouldn't have been better to say, you know what, this is just flat unacceptable.
REHMChris Cillizza of Washington Post. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back. Susan Page is here in the studio with me along with Chris Cillizza. Joining us now is Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee. He joins us by phone from Alexandria, Va. Good morning, Ed.
MR. ED GILLESPIEGood morning. Good to be with you.
REHMTell me, do you believe the results cement Mitt Romney's status as frontrunner or weaken it?
GILLESPIEOh, I think they cement his status as front-runner, but they also reinforced the fact that he's got a ways to go to wrap up this nomination. I think if he had had a, you know, a bigger win in Ohio, that might have been a bigger tipping point for him yesterday. But it's, you know, math and he's adding up delegates. I voted for him yesterday in the Virginia primary. By the way, I'm a Virginian. So I think it didn't really change the dynamics from where it was, you know, a week ago, which is that it's gonna be a tough slog to the nomination, and he's the likely nominee.
REHMSo what about religious conservatives? What about working-class voters, are they coming around to him?
GILLESPIEWell, I haven't seen a lot of the cross tabs. I saw one cross tab about him carrying Catholic voters in Ohio. In some of the other states, a majority of Catholic voters in the primaries tends to be a correlation there between working, you know, middle-class voters. But I think that, you know, whoever emerges as the nominee is gonna have a strong appeal, I believe, to working-class voters because working-class voters, not enough of them are working right now, and that's the number one issue in the election is the economy and jobs and the lack thereof.
REHMEd, Mitt Romney declined to criticize Rush Limbaugh over the comments he made about a college student, which we were just talking about before the break. Do you think he should've?
GILLESPIEDo I think he should have?
GILLESPIEWell, I thought that Santorum and Romney both distance themselves from what Rush Limbaugh said. Maybe it wasn't strong enough in some people's view. The fact is, you know, no one should be attacked the way Sandra Fluke was for taking a, you know, a public stance on public policy. That's true, by the way, on the left or with the right. I think Bill Maher says things against conservatives that are reprehensible and for which he should apologize. Rush did apologize in this instance. I haven't heard Bill Maher apologize for some of the things he said about conservative women.
GILLESPIEAnd I think part of the, you know, the mindset, Diane, is on a Republican side, just to share with your listeners, kind of the, you know, one of the reasons that maybe Santorum or Romney, you know, don't wanna get entangled in that issue is, you know, why is it that we are always the ones who have to respond to what a personality, a television or radio personality says and, you know, the media isn't putting a microphone in, you know, in Democratic faces when, you know, someone on the left says something outrageous?
GILLESPIEAnd so I think, you know, at the same time also, I do think Romney wants to talk about jobs and the economy and, you know, I'm speculating now, but, you know, maybe didn't want to get pulled into this story. It's a distraction. So I can't speak for him, but I can share with you, I think, kind of a broader perspective as a conservative and a Republican.
REHMChris Cillizza has a point.
CILLIZZAEd, I actually wanted to, if I might, I wanted to ask you about Romney and his weaknesses that are still apparent in these polls. Very conservative voters, Santorum won them by 18 points in Ohio. Romney lost Evangelicals. Again, he lost Tea Party supporters. Isn't that the base, at this point, of the Republican Party? And if they don't, it's not that they don't know Romney, right?
CILLIZZAIt seems like they don't like him. What, if anything -- putting your strategist hat on, what, if anything, can he do to convince them that he's their guy, other than become the de facto nominee?
GILLESPIEYeah. Well, I do think that he helped himself, and it may not have penetrated. I know he hit it last night on his across-the-board tax cuts. That helps with economic conservatives. I do think, you know, there is a, you know, on the activist-conservative side, the Tea Party voters and evangelicals and a big part of the base, as you mentioned Chris, a resistance to Gov. Romney. He has not yet closed the deal with them, and that's why he's, you know, going through a slogging primary process.
GILLESPIEObviously, if they've been able to attract them to vote for him, you know, he'd be in a much stronger position right now than he is. And I do think that's the, you know, the challenge for his primary campaign, you know, over the next, I'd say, month and a half is to see, you know, what can be done to try to fix that problem.
PAGEAnd, Ed, this is Susan Page. If Mitt Romney is the likely nominee and if you think as many analyst do that he's being damaged by, what, this continuing slog, is there a point where party leaders like yourself are gonna start pushing Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul to concede, to get out of the race and allow the party to turn all its energy toward defeating President Obama?
GILLESPIEYou know, I don't know, Susan, that it would be, you know, party leaders or others coming together to discourage candidates from running. I don't think that's well-received by the rank and file. I don't think it's well received by those candidates, and it's much too top down for the Republican Party.
GILLESPIEI do think that you'll start to see folks, you know, coming out and saying, you know, as we've seen with conservatives like Eric Cantor and Tom Coburn and myself voting for Gov. Romney in the Virginia primary, Bob McDonnell, others, I think you'll probably start to see more staunch conservatives in the party start to say, we're at a point now where, you know, we're for Mitt Romney because if you look at the math and where things are, we need to begin to, you know, we need to stop magnifying the major differences among ourselves and start highlighting the, say, the minor differences between ourselves and start highlighting the major differences between our party and President Obama and, you know, that time is near. And I do think that more of that dynamic may start to take shape.
REHMI want to ask you about Mitt Romney's comments yesterday about Iran and Syria, talking about how he would do a blockade, how he would send in fighters. I mean, this really is the first time Mitt Romney has spoken out quite so forcefully on international affairs. How well do think that went over with the American public?
GILLESPIEWell, I have to say to you, Diane, I'm not sure how much the American public noticed it or saw it. The truth is, I didn't see much of it. I heard something about it, so if I missed it, you know, it's just like a lot of other voters may have as well. It wasn't really the focus around Super Tuesday. But I do think, you know, national security and foreign affairs are gonna be a significant issue set in this election more so than, I think, people thought, certainly six months ago or even a month ago.
GILLESPIEAnd, you know, how the president is leading relative to the Middle East, relative to Iran, our relationship with Israel, the reset with Russia, I think there's a, you know, a vulnerability here for President Obama, and I do think it's gonna be a bigger issue. I still think the economy and jobs is gonna be most vote determinative for most voters in November. But I do think that foreign affairs and national security issues are gonna be more important than we would've suspected a month ago.
REHMBut it's pretty serious to begin talking about, you know, taking the U.S. into another military situation when we're hardly out of the last.
GILLESPIEWell, I believe President Obama just recently kind of -- was a little more forward leaning in saying that he hasn't taken any military options off the table, I think, in response to a perception that he wasn't being strong enough toward Iran. So I'm not sure, you know, how much of a difference there is. And again, I apologize that I'm not familiar with the details of Gov. Romney's remarks.
GILLESPIEAnd one thing I've learned in this business is if you're not familiar with the exact details of them, you probably ought to hold off on making a comment about them.
REHMI understand. Chris Cillizza.
CILLIZZAHey, Ed, I just wanted to ask, it seems like a millennium ago, but President Obama had his first press conference in five months yesterday afternoon. The thing I was struck by -- this isn't about specifics about foreign policy or Iran, but it's about tone. He was very strong against the Republican candidate saying, you know, if you wanna send American troops into war, you need to tell the American public why, accusing them of casualness in their approach to foreign policy.
CILLIZZAI mean, in every election I can remember, the Republican kind of ran as the --let's just talk about '08. In 2008, John McCain ran as the guy who knew about foreign policy, and Barack Obama was the guy who didn't know about foreign policy, in McCain's construct. Do you think that Obama runs -- let's say Romney is the nominee, that Obama runs as the guy who knows about foreign policy and tries to cast Romney as the guy, you know, former governor and businessman, who doesn't?
GILLESPIEOh, sure, and I think we saw that yesterday. I think you're exactly right, Chris. The president was using the White House and the briefing room to burnish his credentials as commander in chief. First of all, this is, you know, a very political White House, as you know. I mean, that was a press conference that probably would have rightly been held at the Democratic National Committee, not at the White House with my taxpayers' dollars and others.
GILLESPIEI mean, it was crassly political, as Jay Carney has been at the podium. You know, having worked in the White House, you know, there -- I felt --and I took a pass. I was there, as you know, during the presidential campaign of 2008. I was asked a lot by two of you on this show about the, you know, about what was going on in politics. And I would always say, hey, you know, I'm very interested in it, but I'm a former RNC chairman.
GILLESPIEYou know, the taxpayers pay my salary now, and I serve the government of the United States, not the RNC anymore. That line has been completely obliterated. And the things that Jay Carney says from the podium are things that Ari Fleischer or Dana Perino never would have said. And if they had, by the way, they'd have been pilloried for it, and people would have said, that's an inappropriate way to use the White House itself for political purposes. I think that's what the governor -- what the president did yesterday.
PAGESo, Ed, you've worked in the White House. You've been the Republican national chairman. Tell us what your sense is about how things look in the fall election. The economy's getting a little better. Barack Obama, whatever you think his weaknesses are in foreign policy, is the president who ordered the attack that killed Osama bin Laden. How do you think Republican prospects look in November?
GILLESPIEWell, I think it's gonna be a very close election. It's always been that way. I think the dynamics in the country are pretty evenly divided. In my view, Susan, you know, the president starts with, you know, about 46 percent of the vote, and the Republican nominee will start with 46 percent of the vote. And the fight is over the remaining 8 percent, and how they break, you know, is gonna determine it.
GILLESPIEAnd, you know, people say, oh -- I've seen people saying, well, six something, six months from now it's a certainty, President Obama is gonna be re-elected. Six months ago, if you go back July of 2011, it was a certainty he couldn't. You know, Rick Santorum didn't have a chance in the Republican primary. You know, here he is coming down, you know, to one of the last two, probably, in my estimation, standing.
GILLESPIESo to say six months from now I can tell you, you know, what's gonna happen with, you know, with certainty, I think, is, you know, is -- it's a parlor game of Washington. I understand that. But in my view, the dynamics are such that it's unlikely the unemployment rate is gonna be below 8 percent in November. I hope we continue to create jobs in the economy. I was glad to see 250,000 more Americans find work last month. I hope that happens and more next month and the month after.
GILLESPIEBut if that happens, there are three to five million Americans who have left the workforce since President Obama took office. And if they see job creation start to pick up, they will come back into the workforce, which could actually end up with the unemployment rate going higher. Very hard to see a president re-elected with an 8 percent unemployment rate or higher. So I think there are a lot of dynamics out there that are, you know...
GILLESPIE...right now, you know, I don't think bode well for President Obama. But that said, you know, it's hard to beat an incumbent president. And the country is evenly divided, and a lot of things can happen between now and November.
REHMAnd you're sure right about that. Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee. Thanks for joining us.
GILLESPIEThanks for having me on, Diane.
REHMOkay. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We got lots of callers waiting, 800-433-8850. Let's open the phones and go first to Craig in Bethesda, Md. Good morning to you.
CRAIGGood morning. Thank you. I wanted to mention something that was -- has been left out of the Rush Limbaugh discussion. Rush Limbaugh's show is owned by Clear Channel, which is owned by Bain Capital. And I think the idea that Ed Gillespie said, and as Romney said, I wanna talk about something serious, it's pretty serious that you're making tens of millions of dollars from your investment in Bain Capital, and they own the show where all of this went on, all about the -- last week. That was my point.
CILLIZZAI will confess my ignorance to that point, but I will take your word on the ownership.
REHMDaily Beast is...
REHM...reporting the same thing.
CILLIZZAMy guess is, and it is a guess -- I'd like to think it's an educated guess, but you can be the decider of that -- is that if the Limbaugh controversy continues on, and I will say if someone like me, who is paid to pay attention to these things, is still learning of some of the things that Rush Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke today, my guess is it will continue on at least for another few days.
CILLIZZAMy guess is that Mitt Romney will likely say something more. Now, I don't know how definitive he will be. I don't know how effusive or expansive he will be. But my guess is he and his campaign may decide that a stronger condemnation is necessary. As Ed Gillespie pointed out, he and Santorum, Rick Santorum, both have distanced themselves from Rush Limbaugh.
CILLIZZAThat is different than, obviously, than condemning what Rush Limbaugh has had to say. But, again, the internal calculus of clashing with Rush Limbaugh in a Republican presidential primary process, while it may seem like a no-brainer to many people, I don't think is as clear-cut as we might guess.
REHMBut, you know, as a woman -- not as someone who has a microphone, but as a woman, I'm just so offended.
PAGEYou know, I think increasingly, women are willing to speak up when this language is used. And Ed said sometimes liberals use inappropriate language about conservative women.
REHMAnd he's right.
PAGEThat should be condemned as well. This kind of language is unacceptable, and it's demeaning. And all of us should call people on it when it's used. You know, we note that the one Republican candidate, who has been pretty critical of Rush Limbaugh, is Ron Paul, who was more critical about the words and stuff, and also called into question the sincerity of Rush Limbaugh's apology, saying that he was simply trying to appease his advertisers.
REHMSo what about Newt Gingrich? What did he have to say about this?
CILLIZZAWell, not much, Diane. I mean, to be honest, he's largely been sequestered in Georgia for the last 2 1/2 weeks, knowing that if he did not win the Georgia primary -- this is his home state, the state he's represented in Congress for two decades.
CILLIZZAIf he did not win that race -- even he, who has a decidedly high opinion of himself and his capabilities, even he had acknowledged that he couldn't continue in the race. He did win. I think he is going for that Southern strategy. I think he will focus on he's the real conservative and not drop out of the race.
REHMChris Cillizza of The Washington Post. Short break. When we come back, more of your calls. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Let's go to Kalamazoo, Mich., as we talk about the aftermath of Super Tuesday. Good morning, Martin.
MARTINWell, good morning, Diane. Thank you. You ask what it means, these results, and I would say that it means, as an observer, that the modern democratic process in this country is horrendously flawed when the potential leader of the greatest country in the world is of the kind of caliber that these people are presenting.
MARTINAnd I would say the problem is because America is no longer a republic and is a democracy in a population where vastly more people are much more like Archie Bunkers and, say, Albert Einstein. So unfortunately, lack of information, ignorance, selfishness, greed, shortsightedness, these are the majority ruling characteristics.
REHMI'm, you know, I have to speak out and say that characterizing the American public that way is indeed, perhaps yourself, looking at this from the lowest possible denominator. What we hear on this program, what we hear all across the country are thoughtful, intelligent, informed remarks, and I hope those same people are voting. Chris.
CILLIZZAAnd, you know, Diane, I feel like, well, none of the Republican candidates is kind of the stellar standout. I would say that putting yourself forward for office is not an insignificant sacrifice in your life. It is easy for me as someone who stands in the sidelines and says, oh, they should have said this or they should have done that, to criticize them. And I think when you're in the public light, that is entirely fair. That said, look at the resume of Mitt Romney.
CILLIZZAWhether you agree with him or not, and I think you have to put that aside when you're saying these people are not of a level to serve, this is someone who is very successful in business. This is someone who ran -- helped salvage the Salt Lake City Olympics. This is someone who's the governor of a state. This is someone, by all accounts, who is a quite a good family man. You know, I would say the same thing with Rick Santorum. I mean, this is somebody who is a U.S. senator. These are not people that we sort of pick up off the street and say, oh, hey, you're running for president.
PAGEYou know, no question that there are problems with our democracy, that the role of money is of concern, the partisanship we see in Congress. But I have to say there's nothing more heartening than when Chris and I go out and talk to voters at events. You know, they're not -- "Diane Rehm Show" listeners, of course, are all extremely brilliant because they have the wisdom to listen to your show. But even when you go...
CILLIZZASusan ensuring an invite back.
PAGEBut you go out to events for any candidate and I am always struck by how thoughtful people are, how much they care about the country. And maybe our politics is not quite equal to the quality of the people we see, but I would certainly disagree with Martin's characterization.
CILLIZZAJust very quickly, I would say I think people mistake ideological disagreement for disqualification. Just because someone views the political world with the world in general differently than you does not mean they are Archie Bunker. It means they view the world differently than you do. The idea that reasonable people can disagree is being lost in our discourse for the worse.
REHMHere's an email from Carol in Charlotte, N.C. She said, "I heard an exit voter being interviewed after her Republican primary saying, I wish there had been a checkbox saying none of the above on the ballot. Do you think Republicans are still hoping for a last-minute candidate to 'save' them from Romney?" Susan.
PAGEWell, we actually asked some questions going to that in the latest USA Today/Gallup Poll, and what we found was, indeed, 55 percent of Republicans said they wish somebody else as running. But when you ask if that meant the process should be opened, that we should go to a convention and turn to someone else, two-thirds said no. They thought one of the candidates now running should win. I will note, though, that there was a wonderful impromptu interview on CNN last night from Wasilla, Alaska.
PAGEThey had a crew and a reporter at the Wasilla, Alaska, caucus, and who comes in but Sarah Palin. And the reporter grabs her and asked her if she would consider jumping in the race if that happened. And she did not rule it out.
CILLIZZAAnything is possible, I believe, was her direct quote.
REHMAnything is possible. To Somerset, Ind., good morning, Carol.
CAROLStop. I like talking, I mean, I listen to your program all the time. But I was very disappointed with Rush Limbaugh's apology and even more disappointed with the Republican candidate's remark on what he said. As a voter, I think it would turn me off of all the Republican candidates. And I don't know if he could re-apologize in a proper way or not.
REHMWhat do you think, Chris?
CILLIZZAWell, so here is the danger for Republicans is exactly what Carol just outlined, which is that Rush Limbaugh -- Rick Santorum said this. Rush Limbaugh is at least 50 percent entertainer and the rest, sort of, conservative. I mean, this is someone who takes positions to, in some ways, royal things up. Most of the time, it is totally acceptable for the Republican Party, the political Republican Party, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, et cetera, et cetera, to align themselves with Rush Limbaugh.
CILLIZZAIn fact, it is in their best interest, oftentimes, to do so because he has a large conservative audience. Rush Limbaugh saying you're a good guy in a Republican primary is typically a good thing. Then there are these moments. And we've seen this before. This is probably the biggest one with Rush Limbaugh, but we've seen these moments before in which the rules in his goals -- audience, money, influence, stirring up the pot -- are at odds with the goals of a Republican politician trying to win not just a primary, but a general election, which is to win independent voters, to reach the middle.
CILLIZZAAnd it's then that the uncomfortable relationship with Rush Limbaugh is exposed in a meaningful way because these politicians, on the one hand, they agree with him 80 percent of the time, and they want his support. On the other hand, the 20 percent of the time they don't agree with him, they run the risk of exactly what Carol talked about, being labeled with the words and the comments of Mr. Limbaugh, which I guarantee you, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum do not want to be labeled with.
PAGEYou'd really think that Rush Limbaugh had nuclear weapons the gingerly way that Republicans treat him. I mean, really, the unwillingness to condemn him on this and other things reflect the risks they see if they do so.
REHMLet's go to Portland, Ore. Good morning, Jason.
JASONGood morning, Diane. You are my favorite morning show. I just have to say that.
REHMThank you. Thank you.
JASONSo what I'd like to say is that it seems, in the Republican Party, or at least in this Republican primary, that it seems like it's more about how much you believe what you say in order to get the votes or in order to get the delegates. And it seems like Mitt Romney -- they just, for some reason, you know, when he says, you know, all the things that he thinks the Republicans want to hear, I mean, it seems like he's speaking out a very -- gosh, I'm sorry. I'm really nervous. It's my first time calling you.
REHMI'm sorry. It's okay.
JASONSo it seems as if -- speaking out to be the most conservative claim doesn't matter unless you actually believe what you're saying, which it doesn't seem like Mitt Romney does.
CILLIZZAJason, I agree with you 100 percent. I think that the thing that voters...
REHMDoes that mean he's gonna move more to the middle?
CILLIZZAWell, the problem is, Diane, is that -- define to me what authentic Mitt Romney believes. That's -- the problem is I think voters...
REHMIt's the problem lots of voters have had with him.
CILLIZZAAbsolutely. And I think voters -- this goes back to our previous conversation. But I think voters deserve an enormous amount credit for a number of things, one of which is they sense, you know, authenticity really, really well. In 2008, Mitt Romney tried to be a social conservative. Voters said, that's not who you are. So in 2012, he's tried to be a fiscal conservative, a businessman, an economic guy, which is much closer to who he is.
CILLIZZAHe really, I don't think, cares that deeply about social issues, but he's trying to show that he cares because he is facing a challenge in Rick Santorum, from someone who emphasizes those. The question is, what is Mitt Romney at his core in one sentence? You can say what Rick Santorum is at his core in one sentence, a social conservative, evangelical Catholic. What is Mitt Romney at his core? And in that one sentence, is that enough to win a Republican primary?
REHMAll right. To Columbia in Missouri. Good morning, Liz.
LIZGood morning, Diane. Thank you for having me on.
LIZWe had talked about some of the discourse and how toxic it has been, and I agree. I think that it should be much more civil. But in the criticism in Ms. Fluke versus Bill Maher's criticism and lack of apology, at least Bill Maher was criticizing actual political figures, such as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are the most quoted by conservatives about, well, you know, what about Bill Maher, whereas Ms. Fluke was a private citizen addressing Congress. And I think that that distinction has not been really clearly...
REHMBig difference, Susan.
PAGEYou know what, Liz, I was -- I've been struck by the same thing. I mean, I don't actually think even members of Congress or Sarah Palin should open them self up to this kind of language. But especially a 30-year-old law school student who doesn't have kind of -- it hasn't put her -- hasn't been elected to anything, isn't a particularly public person, doesn't have the resources to respond that -- than elected official have, I thought it made it even more egregious.
CILLIZZAI couldn't agree more. We were talking about this off air. I mean, I think that is a critical difference, not to excuse Bill Maher and his comments, but I do think it is different. I would say if people wanna criticize Diane Rehm, and Chris Cillizza and Susan Page, we are public figures of a sort. We go on the radio. We talk about our opinions. We put ourselves out there. I don't think that Sandra Fluke, in testifying before Congress, is putting herself out there in that same way. And I think as the result, she -- it just seemed -- the words themselves are unacceptable period...
CILLIZZA...whether you're a public figure or not. But it seemed even worse to do so to someone who is not really seeking the lime -- I mean, testifying before Congress is not really seeking the limelight in any meaningful way.
REHMAll right. To Boca Raton, Fla. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEGood morning, Diane. A couple of observations. This -- I think this is kind of a halftime in this show we've been watching for the last many months. My view of Romney is that -- and it was just said. It's -- there's a song in the show "Chicago," "Mr. Cellophane." And I think Mr. Romney is "Mr. Cellophane" because he has show -- he has that little substance. He says he wants people to go back to work. He hasn't said particularly how he wants them to go back to work. So I look at him as a no substance guy.
MIKEAnd then there's Rick, and Rick is full of content, but it's religious content. It's not something the nation politics content. And so I think that he turns a lot of people off. I think the president is doing a reasonable job, but candidly, probably could've done better. So that's kinda halftime. Now, the Rush Limbaugh thing. You know, a couple years ago, we had another radio TV host in the morning show who made similar comments about a ladies' basketball team, and he was (word?) and...
REHMDon Imus, yeah.
MIKE...and thrown off the air. What's Rush still doing on the air? Throw him off the air. Give him a couple years of vacation. Maybe he'll do better.
PAGEWell, we have seen a considerable number of Limbaugh's advertisers who announced they are suspending advertising on the show.
PAGEOn the other hand, they're not generally saying that they're cancelling it or that there's no possibility they'll come back.
REHMYeah. Yeah. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Following up on what Mike has said, here's an email from Christopher, who says, "I heard Romney saying in his speech last night, if he is elected president, he will recover the U.S.'s AAA rating. Is there anything realistically that a seating president can do to affect this, or is this as ludicrous a claim as 2 1/2 bucks for a gallon of gas?" Susan.
PAGEWell, actually, if we got as a nation a better control over our federal budget deficit and debt, yes, I think that would affect our rating. So if Gov. Romney has a serious plan to do that, then I think that could affect our credit rating.
CILLIZZAJust quickly, I would add, Diane. I think President Obama yesterday at his press conference talked about the difference between running for president and being president. Now, he was talking about in the realm of foreign policy that it's easy to say, yeah, we should go in military here, and we should go in military here. But it's different when you're the actual president.
CILLIZZAYou're putting American lives at stake. I think it's similar -- I would say this about when Democrats are running against an incumbent Republican president. It's easy to say, we'll get gas down to $2.50 a gallon. We'll eliminate the budget deficit. We'll do all these things. We'll get the rebate. The truth of the matter is it's very difficult.
CILLIZZASo much of that is not dependent on the president. It's dependent on a Congress, which as we have seen over the last few years, it's either incapable or unwilling. I hope it's the latter not the former, but to do big things to -- I mean, think of the fight over raising the debt ceiling. It was this massive fight that embroiled Washington. We're not even getting at reducing the debt and how we would do it, the failure of the super committee.
CILLIZZAI mean, I don't have to go through the laundry list of things. But the president doesn't just by fiat say, okay, we're lowering the debt, and here's what we're cutting. It'd be an easier political world if he did.
PAGESo that's certainly a good point. And to the point of lowering gas prices, boy, there's an area in which we know that presidents can do almost nothing. The thing they usually do is tap the strategic oil reserve, which has only the most minimal and passive effect.
REHMBut now this has come up as an issue in the campaign saying, the president needs to do something about gas prices. I mean, where is this gonna go? I mean, all of these arguments seem to be off the mark.
CILLIZZAWell, I would say the gas prices argument, it -- while it did coordinate with gas prices going up, it also coordinated with the economy, the unemployment rate dropping over the several months. The economy is looking, and I say looking but looking like it was getting better. Look, Republicans cannot root for the economy to get worse in order to beat President Obama. That is not ultimately a winning strategy because the American public wants the economy to get better.
CILLIZZAGas prices, I think, is what they have latched on to, and that it is something that hits every American every time you fill up. It is a pocketbook issue. I think the rise of it has coincided nicely with the economy getter better for them.
REHMChris Cillizza, author of The Fix, a Washington Post politics blog. Susan Page, she is with USA Today and frequently a guest host on this program. Thank you for all you do, Susan.
PAGEOh, thank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thank you, Chris, for being here as always.
CILLIZZAThanks for having me.
REHMThanks to all of you for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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